Biomass (Issue Brief - Energy and climate)

Oct 2006

Both the agricultural and forestry sectors, the suppliers of biomass, would be affected by the extra demand for biomass and biofuels as projected by the IEA. Potential outcomes of this additional biomass demand are:
- Supplementary revenue for the agricultural sector;
- A possible shift away from food production towards biomass production;
- Competition for wood fiber for the forest product sector;
- Increased emphasis on sustainable management for biomass energy;
- Supplementary or alternative revenues from the use of wood biomass for fuels as well as traditional forest products.
The land requirements to satisfy growing biomass demands are difficult to estimate and tend to be wide in range. Better resource utilization (e.g., use of fertilizer and exploitation of existing biomass waste) and research and development, especially in developing countries, would increase yields of agricultural products and biomass, thereby avoiding the occurrence of potential conflicts between these two products.
Similar to other energy alternatives, biomass is not a “silver bullet” solution. Independently, it cannot satisfy all the energy challenges, particularly energy security and climate change. But it belongs to a group of alternative energy sources, which, if applied together, ensures that the energy sector is moving towards sustainability. In addition, it is the incremental volume from the renewable supplies that could ease a tight supply/demand balance for gasoline and provide an alternative fuel during a potential gasoline curtailment. Further research and development efforts and their resulting technology developments are necessary in order to achieve additional cost and GHG reductions.
The main limitation of biomass is its availability and how broadly it could be used as an energy source. By 2050, the share of biofuels in the road transport mix could reach 15%, up from the current 1%. It also estimated that biomass is likely to be used more intensively in power generation in the near future. In line with these indications, several countries, including Brazil, the USA, and EU member states, have adopted policies to raise the usage of biomass and biofuels in their existing energy mix.

By: World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

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